How to Celebrate Christmas & Hanukkah in the Same House

posted: 12/13/16
by: Katie Morton
Holiday greeting card with inspiring handwritten words in star shape. Colorful card that spells out the meaning of the holidays.

Some families call it the "December Dilemma." If you're an interfaith family, do you pick between Hanukkah and Christmas or do you embrace the traditions and meanings behind both holidays? By celebrating both holidays, your family is able to experience meaningful traditions and create new, treasured memories together. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you plan this year's December celebrations.

Tip 1: You Don't Need to Combine Both Holidays into One

While it may be tempting to try and combine your Christmas celebrations with your Jewish traditions, don't feel as though you have to create a Menorah tree or hang dreidels from the mantle. There's no need to try and create a new, interfaith holiday (although if that works for your family, by all means, go for it! There are no rules here). Celebrating the family traditions, religious components, and unique rituals of each holiday independently allows your children to experience and appreciate the heritage of each parent.

Tip 2: Share Treasured Traditions

For those who celebrate Christmas, decorating the Christmas tree and waiting for Santa's arrival may be the peak of their holiday joy. For those celebrating Hanukkah, lighting the candles may be a time-honored tradition. Discuss with your spouse or partner which Christian and Jewish traditions matter the most to each of you and share those holiday moments together as a family.

Tip 3: Create Your Own Special Family Traditions

Part of the joy of any holiday is the valuable moments spent with family and friends. As parents, once you have children of your own, you may want to create special family traditions your children will remember and look forward to. Hosting a sumptuous holiday meal, baking and decorating cookies, or volunteering together at a local soup kitchen are all non-denominational ways to create your own unique family tradition.

Tip 4: Break Bead Together

Regardless of your religious affiliation, there is nothing more festive than an abundant holiday spread of delicious food. One easy way to honor any holiday is by feasting together. Potluck makes everyone feel connected and allows each person to bring menu items they enjoy, so ask each family member or friend to bring a special dish for the big event. Invite grandparents or relatives to bring their favorite holiday recipes to share with their grandchildren.

Tip 5: Read About The Holidays With Your Children

Children of all ages love books, so connect with them about Christmas and Hanukkah by sharing age appropriate stories.

December's Gift: An Interfaith Holiday Story is a beautifully illustrated book appropriate for young children. Clara helps her Bubbe make latkes for Hanukkah and then helps Grammy make Christmas cookies. Recipes are included, should you wish to recreate the food in your own kitchen.

For a comical take on the holidays, Lemony Snicket's The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming is a favorite. As the latke runs away from the cooking pan, he encounters all sorts of Christmas decorations and learns about the holiday through his conversations. It's a light-hearted read to share with children who want to learn more about the traditions of both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Know that no matter how you celebrate the holidays with your family, the focus should be on making memories and spending time together. By learning to share your honored traditions, and being open to new ones, you'll all have a joyful holiday celebration.